Every injured player taped it up and took the field for Middlesboro. Playing with a lot of heart, the Jacket defense held Corbin’s vaunted offense to just one drive and three big plays inthe game.
Junior quarterback Hunter Adams, playing through a high ankle sprain, completed 11-of-19 passes for 207 yards. He rushed for a net of 30 yards, but kept several plays alive by scrambling long enough to find open receivers.
Caleb Watkins continued to be a thorn in the Jackets’ side. He caught a 53-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and scored on touchdown runs of 95 and 34 yards in the fourth to account for most of Corbin’s 270 yards of total offense. He also had a hand in what may have been the game’s pivotal play.
Trailing 13-7, Middlesboro was driving hard midway through the third quarter. Xavier Rogers took a reverse seven yards for a first down on 3rd & 6 from the Corbin 19. He ran for nine more yards on the next play and two plays later Brennan Bowling pushed his way through the Redhound defense for a two-yard gain on 4th & one.
On first down Bowling took a pitch from Adams, dodged a Redhound defender in the backfield and picked up huge blocks from Daniel Crawford and A.J. Jones. Bowling gained 24 yards to the Corbin 37 where Watkins met him. Bowling was fighting for more yards and Watkins got his hand on the football and worked it loose. Lance Freeman jumped on the loose ball and Corbin took over at their own 41.
“That was a turning point in the game,” said Middlesboro coach Kenny Roark. “We had an opportunity to tie the game or take the lead and it just didn’t happen.
“But these kids played hard and they don’t have anything to hang their heads about.”
The Redhounds went 50 yards on five plays, helped by a rare chop block call against the Middlesboro defense. Jordan Wagers’ 26-yard field goal made it 16-7 with 1:14 to play in the third period.
Needing just two scores, Middlesboro drove from their own 20 to the Corbin 43. A diving catch by Rogers for a 25-yard gain was the big play on the drive. On 2nd & 7 from the 43 Adams went deep for Rogers down the left sideline and C.J. Crawford intercepted the ball at the five-yard line.
To that point the Jacket defense had allowed just 92 yards on 21 carries. They blitzed heavy to the right side and Watkins took the handoff on a misdirection play to the left. He found a hole and was gone — for a 95-yard touchdown run. A missed extra point kept the Jackets within two scores. It was 22-7 with 9:11 to play in the game.
Bowling’s 15-yard return set Middlesboro up at their own 25 yard line. On first down, Adams ran right on an option keeper and picked up seven yards. As he was diving ahead for extra yards, the ball came loose and Corbin recoverd the fumble at the 33.
“The turnovers and penalties cost us and we got them at the most inopportune times that you can have them,” Roark said. “Now on both of those (fumbles) the kids were playing hard and trying to make plays. I can’t fault them for that. Corbin just got their hands on the football.”
The Middlesboro defense held, but valuable time ran off the clock.
Rogers returned the punt 26 yards out the 29-yard line.
Adams guided the Jackets 71-yards on 12 plays. Facing a heavy pass rush he scrambled six times for 22 yards and completed 3-of-4 passes on the drive for 56 yards, including a 29-yard TD to Crawford.
The drive took six minutes off the clock and Rogers was stopped about a foot short on the two-point conversion try, so the Jackets trailed 22-13 with 1:50 left in the game.
Middlesboro tried an onside kick that went right to Rob Madon, who returned it 18 yards to the Jacket 34. Watkins ran 34 yards to the end zone on the first play to put the game away 28-13.
Trying to get back in the game, Adams completed passes of 12 and 14 yards to Eddie Gilbert. He threw to Crawford for 16 and then Bowling for 31 down to the Corbin 17. He was flushed from the pocket and took off down the field, but was tackled inside the ten as time expired.
Corbin got on the board first when Clint Cashen passed to Watkins for a 53-yard touchdown with 5:02 to play in the first quarter. It appeared the Redhounds ran a pick on the play and a flag was thrown, but the official called pass interference on the Jackets and the play stood.
That was the only completion the Jackets gave up in the game as they sacked Cashen four times and hurried him into six incompletions.
Middlesboro answered with a 13-play, 76-yard drive. Highlights of the drive included a three-yard sneak from Adams on 4th & 2 from the MHS 32, a 32-yard completion to Rogers who out-jumped a pair of Redhounds and tipped the ball to himself, and a 9-yard pass to Crawford on 4th & 6 from the Corbin 15. Shawn Russell capped it with a one-yard TD plunge to tie the score with 8:23 to go in the second quarter.
Corbin took a 13-7 lead on a 23-yard touchdown run by Ryan Fritts with 5:48 to play in the first half.
Corbin (11-1) travels to Newport Central Catholic (11-1) next week for the regional championship round or quarterfinals. Newport CC defeated Holy Cross (Covington) 28-0 Friday.
Middlesboro ends the season with an 8-4 record. Roark said was proud of this team and will miss the twelve seniors that played their last game Friday.
“We had a group of seniors that stepped up this year. We lose on game by one point, another by three points and the two to Corbin we could have won also,” he said. “They’re a fine bunch of kids and I’ve really enjoyed coaching them. I hate to see this group of seniors go.”